Bank of America Corp.'s board may extend its search for a chief executive into 2010 if directors cannot settle on a candidate in the next two days, according to people familiar with the matter.

The directors, who met Nov. 20, may be willing to go past their Thursday target and the Dec. 31 retirement of CEO Kenneth D. Lewis if it means getting a better choice, according to a person familiar with the deliberations. At least four external candidates, including Citigroup Inc. director Michael O'Neill, have rebuffed approaches. Options include an interim chief or a delay in Lewis' retirement.

Director Charles K. "Chad" Gifford, a former CEO of FleetBoston Financial Corp., which was bought by B of A in 2004, could step in on an interim basis, said Michael Holland, who oversees more than $4 billion as the chairman of Holland & Co. in New York.

B of A faces pressure to pick someone in a short period who's acceptable to regulators and whose pay would be low enough to win approval from Treasury Department paymaster Kenneth Feinberg, the people said.

Politics also has influenced the choice at the biggest U.S. bank, the people said. House Oversight Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns said last week that Brian Moynihan, one of two internal candidates, may lack the needed leadership.

That's narrowing the field and giving the board "an incredibly tough job," Holland said. "For people who have choices, it's hard to figure out why someone would take this job."

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